How To Protect Yourself From Online Scams
On one hand the internet is a wonderful place, a great source of information, entertainment, and connections. But it is also a secretive, anonymous place, which allows things like scams to flourish.
How can you identify these hidden attackers and keep yourself from becoming a victim?
Email in particular has made it even more convenient than ever for scammers to cast a broad net and try to catch unwitting victims. Email phishing has occurred for just about as long as email has existed, for the simple reason that it continues to work.
The classics are offers for millions of dollars from African princes orsweepstakes winnings. All you have to do is send them your banking information or Social Security Number. With these kinds of phishing emails, you know better (hopefully) than to fall for their outlandish promises.
But next to these clumsier efforts to get your financial information, there are subtler approaches, ones that aren’t immediately identifiable as fake. You may get the communications from your bank, the government, or your boss,with links that actually lead to spoofed websites or can load malware onto your computer.
To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, move your cursor over links to see if they go to legal websites. Verify the sender’s email. And also note the tone and grammar of the email itself for errors. If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly by phone or in-person to verify the legitimacy of the email.
For more sophisticated scamming efforts, this is where email phishing or text smishing can lead. Scammers essentially create a duplicate of a legitimate website—same layout, logos, content, everything—with the intention of compelling you to log-in. By the time you realize that you are not actually on an official website, the scammer has your log-in information that they can use on the real website.
If a scammer goes to the effort of duplicating a website, they aren’t about to do anything halfway. That means that it can be difficult to tell if a site is fake or not. But there may be some tells.
In the main field where a site’s URL is shown, you should see what looks like a padlock right in front of the web address. The presence of that lock tells you that the site and your connection to it is secure. If you don’t see a lock, the opposite is true, which means you should leave the site asap.And, while the page may look genuine, closer inspection could reveal small mistakes: a logo that has rough edges, colors that are just a bit paler or darker than normal. It could just feel…off.
Before entering any information, you can try the cursor hover technique over any links on the page to see where they actually go. And simply trust your instincts. If something seems weird about a site, just leave it.
The idea of scams may sound frightening. But by recognizing when things just aren’t right, and following the aforementioned tips to confirm your suspicions, you can keep yourself safe and confident online.
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